Sunday 29 November 2020


I don't like Facebook. I don't like how it operates. I don't like its governance, its political manipulation, its privacy policies. I don't like Mark Zuckerberg. I especially don't like its new interface. But I'm on there anyway because it's the only social media that keeps me in contact with people I never see or hear from otherwise, and to leave would mean not being in contact with them at all. Thus do FB suck you in and trap you.

They've also just given me an account warning for hate speech. Commenting on the differences between English and American punctuation, specifically on whether to place a comma inside or outside quote marks, I concluded – as a copy editor who thinks US grammatical rules on this point are silly – by saying: “Stupid Americans.” (Note that, US grammarians. The full stop is inside the quote marks here because I'm quoting what I actually wrote. If there'd been no full stop in the original, it should of course go outside the quote marks.) It seems FB regard calling Americans stupid as hate speech. Stupid Americans.

But there is something. Facebook lives from onsite advertising and likes to personalize that to each user according to... whatever criteria they use. Presumably they auto-trawl your posts, your comments, your likes, what advertising you actually click on, your groups, your pages, your friends, put tracking cookies on your computer, and so forth. I think there's a setting where you can turn this off. I must have done that at some stage because I used to get all sorts of irrelevant sponsored junk. When I ever took any notice of it, it was merely in order to click “Hide”.

Recently, there's been a change there. Possibly FB activated personalization again without telling me, because they seem to have refined what they send my way. Now I do get targeted advertising – and of just one type: women's clothing and accessories. That's it. Nothing else whatsoever.

For instance:

Those harem pants do look very comfortable. I could certainly go for the round neck velvety top. I love those patterned tights. Nice shawl too.

Have I bought anything? No, I haven't. Am I going to alter my advertising settings again? No, I'm not.

Okay, FB, score one to you.